A senior IDF officer said that senior Hamas leader Muhammad Deif was severely to mortally wounded in an IAF air strike Tuesday night in Gaza.
After the strike, Palestinian sources had reported that Deif was in moderate condition.
Tuesday’s Air Force strike was the army’s fourth attempt to take out Deif. In one of the IDF’s previous attempt, he was moderately wounded and recovered from his injuries. Deif, one of the most-wanted Hamas terrorists, was the mastermind behind numerous terror attacks, including the kidnapping of soldiers. He took the place of notorious Hamas bomb-maker Yehiya Ayyash, known as “the engineer," after his assassination by Israel in 1996.
Early Thursday, a bomb dropped by an Israeli warplane destroyed the Palestinian Foreign Ministry building in Gaza City and caused widespread damage in a surrounding neighborhood where 13 people were wounded.
The Israeli military confirmed it carried out an airstrike on the Palestinian Foreign Ministry, noting that it is "led by Hamas" and has been used for the "planning of terror attacks." The Palestinian foreign minister is Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar.
"This is state terrorism against the Palestinian people,"
Foreign Ministry spokesman Taher al-Nunu said about the attack on the ministry building.
Captain Noa Meir, an Israeli army spokeswoman, described Zahar as "One of the most extremist leaders of Hamas" But said the attack had not been aimed at killing him.
The strike took place after 1:30 a.m., sending a fireball and huge plume of smoke up over Gaza City. Thirteen Palestinians, including six children, were wounded in neighboring buildings, mostly from flying glass, medics at the scene said. It was not known if anyone was in the Ministry at the time.
Ambulances and rescue services raced to the scene. Houses and cars in the area were badly damaged by the force of the blast, and the third and fourth floor of the Foreign Ministry building were destroyed. The building is about seven stories tall.
Palestinian TV, broadcasting live, showed a long line of police and emergency vehicles, their headlights illuminating the damaged structure, their red revolving roof lights flickering in the dust.
Israel has been waging a two-week offensive in Gaza after Hamas-linked terrorists carried out a cross-border raid on June 25, killing two Israeli soldiers and capturing a third. On Wednesday, an Israeli aircraft dropped a quarter-ton bomb on a house in Gaza City where Hamas commanders were meeting, killing nine members of a family. Earlier this month, Israeli warplanes attacked the Hamas-controlled Interior Ministry twice, setting it on fire and causing considerable damage.
News agencies contributed to the report